the issue of color

we finished the backsplash last night (EASY project!) and our kitchen transformation is almost complete.

someone who knows their culinary shizz cooks in the kitchen....is what they'll say. they'll be wrong, but they'll still say it.

the last [big] puzzle piece is new wall color. i mentioned before that we want a nice, light cool gray.

our kitchen gets almost no natural light due to only having one small window (and two glass-paned doors that dont do much), and that one is located in a place facing our back yard that is pretty shady anyway. so i need the decor in the room to pull itself up by the bootstraps and make its own light. thus, light gray.

plus after so much blue and cherry, i think this neutral palate will feel like a nice shower at the end of a day of salty, saturated swampassity.

here's the dilemma: the tones of cabinet paint we had to choose from on the rustoleum kit were a cream white and frost white. one with pinkish hues and one with blue hues. in the name of ridding the space of all warm, confining colors, i went with frost.

however, the "snow white" tile which was the brightest shade offered for our budget has decidedly warm tones. dammitz!

sometimes this disparity is practically imperceptible. and then other times it is screamingly awful. a lot depends on my mental health level at the time and the lighting conditions.

i looked at a bunch of white cab/white backsplash examples on pinterest and it turns out many of them had not-wuite-identical shades of white and i never would have noticed if i wasnt specifically inspecting that factor. so i am hoping it's just as case of being so close to the project that i notice every potential flaw.

regardless, since, as a reader pointed out on facebook (hi tamara!), gray is the biggest schizo of all the colors and can come across with red, blue, purple, or even green feelings, depending on the shade, there are LOTS of varieties to choose from.

and since we are dealing with the issue of incompatible undertones with our whites, i want to make sure the gray is a neutral mediator and not taking sides in the war of cool vs. warm.

so i need your voice. i need you to rock the vote in the comments section or if youre shy over on the poll yonder right above our family picture towards the top

the question is: not which shade is your favorite, but what shade of gray do you think best marries the two different white surfaces that are in our kitchen, while also being its own voice?

one color just had a boring number so i named it myself. you'll never guess which one.

oh, and i made a typo in my labeling; it's gull wing, not gull wind. i dont want bird fart colors on my walls, thanks.

again, what shade of gray do you think best marries the two different white surfaces that are in our kitchen...minimizing their differences and uniting the two of them?

if you are vehemently opposed to gray marriage, then you can abstain.

oh man, best. pun. ever. high fiving a million angels.


getting fixed

my friend raechel knows things. she knows how to dress, how to cook, how to design, how to write, how to sew, how to blog and how to love. she is awesome and having her in my life has inspired SO many great new things. that is the mushy truth.

so when she tweeted about trying something called "stitch fix." i was intrigued.

i looked into it and got the skinny: it's a personal styling/shopping website. you tell them your size/style/budget and their stylists send you a "fix" of 5 items (clothes & accessories) they think will work well for you. you get to try everything on in the comfort of your own home, with the benefit of the rest of your wardrobe; anything you dont like, you send back in the free prepaid envelope, anything you like, you keep and are pay for.

you pay $20 every time you have them send you a new fix. they call this a styling credit, but it goes towards anything you choose to keep.

how do they know what to send?

well, like i said, when you sign up you answer a ton of questions, rate example outfits, indicate where you want your wardrobe to grow (are you looking for dresses or tops?) and what risks youre willing to take (edgy, boho, preppy). you also get a blank field at the end to tell them anything else they want to know.

for my first fix i asked for sleeveless tops for hot GA summer and a nice pair of neutral bottoms (since i have a lot of bright shorts already).

it was really thrilling and terrifying for this control freak to let go and let a total stranger pick out clothes for me. but there was no risk (beyond the $20 which i figured was worth it for the experience) and if pinterest has taught me anything, it is that some folks were born to style outfits for others.

a few days later this showed up on my doorstep:

their packaging, communication and design is AWESOME. it felt like such a high-end experience to be a part of. like designers sending famous actresses their wares in hopes of being worn in the red carpet.

do you see the insert in there? another fun incentive is that if you keep all 5 items in your fix, you get 25% off all of them plus the $20 that already went towards your purchase.

i lingered for so long with everything mysteriously wrapped up like this. what wonders lay inside?? such anticipation!

and then i pulled out the gang:

one necklace

one pair of shorts
3 tops
a happy envelope

my very first thoughts were, "oooooooooh, i dont know about these." but then i realized...thats the point! letting someone with no emotional attachments try to figure out flattering new options for me. i am willing to broaden my horizons, so i was excited to try these things that might not have spoken to me from the rack if i was shopping for myself.

here's what was in my happy envelope: super clear instructions for what was next, a friendly free gift of a little pouch of post its and my invoice with the pricing and origin of each item listed.

now here's the thing. i LOVE authenticity. i love being raw and transparent and letting you guys see the good, the bad and the ugly from me. i fully intended to post pictures of me in the clothes (like raechel did) no matter how hilarious or hideous they were.

i had to renege on this promise when i tried some of this stuff on. you guys, i am just not going down a road that leads to self-hate and lots of this stuff was so unflattering on me (not through my body's fault or the clothes' fault...just not a good match) that to put the pictures up on the internet would not have been good for my heart. thats my insecurity issue and until jesus works it out in me, i am not going to do things that lead to me believing lies about myself. amen? amen.


i LOOOOOOVE that each item comes with the clear price and info on a little tag AND a color photo of outfit ideas for how to integrate the piece into your existing wardrobe.

ok i selected the CHEAPEST option for all of my fixes. $55 isnt out of the realm of sanity for me, but it would be one of the most expensive items in my closet...true story.

so with that in mind, i would have to love it, and i just didnt. the print was a little too drab and muted for me and the double straps would almost necessitate a strapless bra (aka hell). and the final kicker was that i seemed to be too tall for this shirt, since the pictures sowed it hitting much lower on the hip than it did for me. it was more of a crop.

i thought this one was a piece of mail-ordered comedy. $70 for a grey cottom raceback tank with some neon accents. i happened to be wearing a $4 grey racerback tank from american eagle when i got this, and it was 50X more flattering on me. this one was reeeeally short on me.

love the color combo, hated the price and fit.

this one was my favorite. i was all about the bold colors and stripes and the fun pocket detail on the breast. but yall...it is transparent!!! big mommy dont play dat.

i am a mom of 2, almost 30 and married to a minister. also i live in the deep south. i cannot be walking around in this. i think the world would pay me $80 to send this back. if only it was been opaque and $40 cheaper!!!

last up: the shorts. i was so excited to get these on. but alas, size fail. i couldnt even get them over my hips to even look at them. i wear a size 10 in pants (sit see, i'm transparent with yall a little bit still) from almost all stores and these were a large so it should have worked, but maybe boutique L is smaller than chain store large. bummer and a kick in the confidence gonads.

my last hope, and the cheapest item in the fix was this necklace. at first i was scared because i dont own anything like this. but you know what, thats the point!

and while $30 is a lot for a necklace where i come from (i come from my own wallet, btw) i already had $20 invested in this experience that i was NOT getting back.

unfortunately the necklace was the only item that didnt come with styling suggestions and i was kind of at a loss of how to pair this looooong necklace with a big statement pendant with anything i owned.

it took a few tries but this is what i ended up wearing to work:

did i get it totally wrong? is this like a "only wear when youre all fancied up in all black and hitting the bars" kind of necklace?

i dont know, but i dont really care. this this made me feel stylish and fancy all day and it worked for me.

PLUS, due to its appearance, it was like a magical little chunk of meteor nestled in my bosom. it felt nice to pretend like my rack was powerful enough to pull celestial bodies from their orbits and into the gravitational well of m'girls.

so i kept one thing. that's the bad(ish) news.

but the good news is that i really did enjoy the process and i learned a ton from this first fix and think this is a great service and business that is really going to do well.

so when i went to my account to let them know what i was keeping and what i was sending back, i was able to rate each item based on price/fit/style/cut and leave comments about each. the interface for doing this is VERY well laid out and easy to use.

and then i also went back into my profile and updated it to mention a few more overall notes that my stylist (fancy!) should know about me: that i carry my weight in my hips and would like to minimize those, that i am super pale and that sheer/transparent is not really an option.

the overwhelming thing i have heard about stitchfix is that they really do LISTEN to what you say. i asked for neutral bottoms and cool, breezy tops; i got exacgtly those things (some a little bit breezier than others thanksyouverymuchtransparency).

a few ideas i had about their model (and they are only in beta and already doing a GREAT job. seriously, too many great things about their system to even name):

-it would be cool if the 25% off discount for keeping all 5 pieces was a graduated one that you worked up to to incentivize keeping even fewer things : like keeping 2 items got you 10% off, 3 items gets 15% and so on. but i have no idea what their profit structure is or anything like that so it may not be feasible.

-what if you could decide how many items in your fix and change the styling fee based on that. like 3 items per fix for a $13 fee, 5 for $20, 8 for $30 or something?

-it seemed like they could have been helped by or might need a picture of me. i was expecting that part to happen on the original questionnaire. like maybe a picture of me in an outfit that makes me feel AMAZING and maybe even a picture of my in a form fitting unitard or something that shows my true shape (with an IRONCLAD privacy agreement!). that way they could see coloring, shape, proportion rather than depending on my words alone to describe me adequately.

-their lowest price point (which i had signed up for) is still pretty pricey. i dont know where all these chicks are who spend $80 on a shirt and call it their "cheapest," but i dont know many of them. i feel like this system could work great even using just old navy or target clothes. i know one of the points is probably getting more boutique or small-label designers some exposure, but i felt like if i could afford some of that stuff, i could just get a traditional personal shopper at bloomingdale's to do it for me too. i hate feeling like a cheapskate, but we are on a tight budget and i still would like for this service to work for me so i can be a cool snazzy lady too.

did i have a little nagging panicky doubt that maybe this was a frivolous waste and that i'd be better off just going shopping and being my own stylist? yes. a few times when things were looking rough on me and i was starting to take it personally. but i have decided to give it at least 2 more fixes and give it a real chance. (if it doesnt work out after that, rae-rae can always just be my stylist. i shall pay her in snuggle).

it's not a subscription, rather it's on demand, so i can "order a fix" any time i want and they will pack one up for me and send it along (though you have the option of setting your account to auto-send one every month). so the next time i get an etsy order, that is where the money is going, because i want to branch out and be surprised by life and try new things.

my friend (hi katie!) even had a great point, that the $20 could be justified as a date night activity. what husband wouldnt be into the idea of seeing his wife in something way edgier or fancier than she normally wears? i think there is definitely enough potential to be had in this to make the investment on the front end worth the risk.

a year ago the thought of wearing skinny jeans or t-strap sandals would have had me in a cold sweat (and not just because my thighs were hot from the clingy denim and my feet cold in the sandals), but now i have 9 of those very items in my closet and they are some of my favorite pieces that make me feel awesome about myself.

have you tried stitch fix? have you had success? smashing failure leading to downward shame-spirals? is this the first you've heard of it and want to know more (check it out here)?

major brava to the minds that thought of this business, i hope they keep on keeping on, because even though i was 1 for 5 on my first fix, i really did enjoy it all.


weird jollies

let's talk about weird things that make us happy.

when i was in high school, i would sometimes take a little square of aluminum foil to class in my backpack. when i'd get bored, i would take it out, crumple it up into a ball and then spend several enjoyable minutes smoothing it back out to flat perfection (which was ironically my middle school nickname) with my fingernail or other implements. insta-stress relief.

another one that i love is pulling off the protective plastic film that comes on new things: screens, digital clocks, appliances, whatever. bonus points if you never realized you even had a protective factory film on there and then i come along like 3 months later, spot it, and whoosh it off--leaving a pristine surface beneath.

egg shells. whenever i cook eggs, i take the empty broken shells and wrap them up in some paper towels and then crunch the mess out of them. the sound and the tactile sensation of this is SO PLEASING.

i found a new one a few days ago: efficient lint removal.

my most favorite new shirt, an ombre tiered ruffle tank (from my all-grown-up makeover post) was pilling like crazy. it was generating so many pills that pfiezer was getting nervous about their market share (oh, man. i really just said that).

so many ruined tiers...so many salty tears.

at first, i thought it was because i usually wear a long necklace with this top and maybe the links were snagging it. but even after i reaccessorized in the name of blousal longevity (i'm such a martry, i know) the pilling persisted.

in the name of being a grown up and trying to take care of my belongings, i purchased a lint shaver thing from amazon for $7. i had very little faith since i remembered my mom having one of these when i was little and it never worked (though to be fair, i think i was using it to try to shave my stuffed animals).

it arrived and i laid out the patient on the operating floor. the prognosis was grim: it looked like a thrift store cast off, all fuzzy and sad.

i cranked the little fella up and ran it over the surface of my first tier.

i mean it was a jesus-meets-leper kind of transformation. complete restoration and healing!

the process of slowly canvassing the entire shirt surface and leaving behind a snail-trail of perfection was pure ecstasy.

my shirt was brand new and all the evil linty minions were banished!

of course i had to pull them out and see just how many stowaways had been piggybacking around with me on this ONE SHIRT

i went on a one-woman blitzkrieg against all the pills in our house. the satisfaction i felt from this task can only be described as "borderline OCD."

so spill it: what are the weirdest, most random things that de-stress or strangely please you? let not make this something freaky-naughty, people; i am talking about G-rated random as hell things. plushies can just sit this one out, because that's not what we are looking for. (again, thank you 30 rock for that vocab nugget...never thought i would need to use it in a sentence).


the DIY that almost ended me

i've read the blog posts and the tutorials. i believed the warnings that painting cabinets is HAAAAAARD.

but i am also blursed (blessed/cursed) with delusions of grander capabilities than i actually possess, so i am not appropriately scared of projects that i definitely should be. i just jump right in the deep end and only survive because there is no other alternative but to keep swimming until i am out.

after 5.5 years living among the faux cherry kitchen cabinets that the house came with when we first bought it-- and that i once actually loved (stupid, stupid girl)-- i recently transitioned to, "okay, i would never pick these on my own, but they really arent that bad."

and then one day last week, i tipped right over the edge into THESE ARE HIDEOUS AND THEY MUST GO NOW! territory.

god bless jesse. i call him up out of nowhere and say, "i have a big project i want to do and you will have to help me majorly and it will take days and days and i want it so bad, so you cant say no."

is raging impulsiveness a sign of a brain tumor? sociopathy? imminent death? no? then okay, it's not at the top of my list of traits to change about myself at the moment. WE PAINT!

and paint we did. we painted, and we deglossed, cleaned, sealed, unscrewed, mounted, cried, sweated, and wallowed.

but we finished. yes we did:

it wasnt the actual difficulty of this thing that was a kick in the soft stuff...it was the all-encompassing nature of it.

you will never realize how much surface area your cabinet doors comprise until you take them off and have to find a space to lay them out in. you never realize how much you use your countertops until you cant touch them for 48 hours. you never realize that your children are not actually the cuddly fruit of your loins that you always assumed, but are instead invincible destructi-cons with a vendetta of mental anguish to carry out against you until you try something like this.

we have child locks on all of our lower cabinets, so the kids have never really been able to see inside, much less open ALL OF THEM ALL AT ONCE WITH UNRESTRICTED ACCESS. good sweet gracious, all hell broke loose when they realized pandora's box had been opened. with the mess that this kind of undertaking requires anyway--plus two toddlers--we had on our hands a grade A shitstorm unleashing fury on us for 4 full days.

i walked in at one point and layla seemed to be smoking several birthday candles she had unearthed while also wielding a food processor cheese-grating attachment blade at judah as he fended her off with a pyrex shield and brandished an immersion blender back at her. precious moments and willow tree: where are your collectible figurines for these moments?

jesse and i have decided that as mosquitoes are attracted to CO2, so are our kids to any agendas we might have of being productive. they sense this distracted weakness in us and lose their minds like 2 little blood-thirsty life-suckers. whereas if jesse and i are being lards on our laptops in the same room as them, they will happily and quiety play or watch TV for HOURS. but dare we try to go one room over and do something requiring 5 quarks of brainpower, 4 ounces of focus or even 75% of our limbs, they experience tiny brain hurricanes that render any formerly-engaging activity utterly useless and invisible and all they can think about is stopping our progress at any cost.

chaos and stress reign supreme, messes abound and jesse and i creep ever closer to the grave.

am i painting an adequate picture of the FOUR DAY PROCESS for you? if not, tough luck, because big mommy aint repainting anything else for at least a fortnight.

but was it worth it? shockingly: yes.

let's dive in, shall we?

i was settled on the amazingly in depth tutorial from young house love until i realized that, besides being super talented, these people are also insane and may secretly be ninjas or at least contractors. my mind cant function inside of 13-day time lines, removing all belongings from all cabinets and drawers, and sanding every surface twice. then again, they had real oak cabinets so being super by-the-book was more important to them. they are rockstars a million.

so instead i used the before/after transformation and beadboard idea from this blog to guide us. finding this blog gave me several important pieces of info:

1. rustoleum makes a line of "transformations" paint kits designed to give you everything you need to change the color of cabinets, counters or furniture all in one box. they are cheap, come in many colors and come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. we ended up getting the cabinet kit for the cabs and the furniture kit we used on our counters (since the counter top one didnt come in a black option for some reason). the cabinet one was $75 and the furniture one we used on the counters was $35. both had 4 steps and coats included: deglossing, painting, decorative coat (optional...we didnt) and protective coat. no sanding required was what sold us...and the price tag.

2. adding beadboard panels to the cabinet fronts. this "one little extra" as i billed it to jesse, ended up adding a whole day and a half to the ordeal because we had to cut them exactly right and that took all of jesse's efforts for one whole night of work and then we caulked like drunk people around the gaps to make it seamless and had to go back and sand the gloops and overflows (so dammit, we had to sand a little bit anyway).

before the storm. i lived here for 5.5 years and this never really bothered me. now i see this picture and have almost a physical aversion to it.

after taking off all of the door fronts and gold hinges. we didnt have any pulls on the cabinets or drawers before bc it never bothered us, and anyway, lipstick on a pig, you know?

as i was removing all the hinges and taking them down, i was so naive and happy as the project got under way. i love my cabinets and saw only the good in them. i would actually sweet talk them, telling them, "you're just tiny little cabins, that's where you got your name. snuggy little homes for all my stuff to cozy up in." by the end of the project, the cabin/cabinette wordplay charm had vanished unless youre thinking of those cabins that horror movies are set in that scare the living crap out of me and i never want to be around. yeah, that's more of what these were like.

preparing to be cleaned and deglossed. i labelled them all (with info of where they belonged) with a post-its before writing a master list of the location and dimensions of each (since the post-its would be removed eventually)

i bought the cheapest knobs from home depot that they had in a shape that i like and then went with my old fave, oil-rubbed bronze spray paint to give them the finish that i actually wanted rather than springing $5 per knob on one that came that color

the existing hinges got a coat of it too.

jesse cut out the beadboard rectangles for the cabinet fronts and the cabinets frames. he also got a terrible haircut somewhere during the week, but we love him still and find his sexiness fully restored by the skillful use of these power tools.

the first beadboard find its new home. this is such a chic two-toned look, maybe we should have stopped there. oh sorry, i thought i lived in opposite land. ZING!

we used just liquid nails to attach the beadboard since its not like they would be getting yanked on. for larger sections that the liquid nails wasnt enough to hold tightly down, we secured with little nail-gun brads

after 1 coat of deglosser and 2 coats of paint. note the dishes in the sink are NOT from cooking since that did not happen at all during this project, but instead are full of things i accidentally touched with the deglosser during that phase. that is serious stuff and i didnt want any of it on things that would eventually touch our food.

seeing my cabinet-contents without their doors was like seeing your teacher in a swimsuit or something. you always knew it went on out of your sight, but it's just slightly wrong or indecent to see it all exposed in the light of day like that.

everybody in their ghost makeup!

the countertop situation deteriorates heading into day 3. clean and clear countertops are my love language. more so, the state of my countertops is often a perfect barometer for the state of my stress level. guess how laid back and fun to be around i was at this point!

late friday night we finished the protective coating and got the hardware installed on all the doors. we were so tired but had to get them hung to see the final product:

so so so pretty, but also utterly spoiled by the off-white countertops.

enter phase two: countertop makeover.

jesse went to bed at about midnight, but i HAD to get going on the counters because the white on offwhite contrast was ruining my before/after moment.

i cleaned the living snot out of the counters, and it was actually a little sad to rub the deglosser all over them and prep to paint them since they now looked better than ever. kind of like a dog that bites someone and has to be put down and acts so sweet in that sad back room at the vet and makes you think, "oh let's not go through with it, he will be good! look how gentle and docile". your heart breaks, but you know this creature is a danger to all future people who come into contact with it. so it was with my counters.

here was my real "old yeller" moment of truth:

nothing like rolling out black paint onto the broad white expanse of your counter to make your ovaries clench up a little bit.

after dealing with the front and backs, vertical-hanging, and decorative grooves of the cabinets, painting flat, horizontal, waist-high countertop was the most pleasing experience EVER. i seriously enjoyed all of the coats as my roller glided across the conveniently placed and perfectly-textured-for-paint surface.

after letting it dry overnight and then putting on the topcoat and letting THAT dry for another 24 hours (not being able to use your countertops at all is CHALLENGING. the top of our trashcan became our only oasis during this time) i finally had my AFTER[glow] moment:

breathe it in...but not too deeply, the topcoat hasnt fully cured yet.


rustoleum cabinet transformations kit (frost)-$75
17 knobs and 5 handles hardware- $50
two 4'x8' sheets of mdf beadboard-$40 (lots leftover for a future bathroom project)
furniture transformations kit (used for counters) in black: $35
oil-rubbed bronze spray paint-$7
liquid nails and caulk tubes-$5

we already had and needed:
-saw, caulk gun, nailer, sander
-paint rollers, tape, trays & NICE brushes (crucial)

so $212 for what amounts to brand new cabinets and countertops (in my mind at least) is a STEAL. we could never had afforded actual replacements or even paying someone else for this labor (in case, you know, my WORST ENEMY was looking for some work, i might have wished this upon him).

of course, i am your textbook "if you give a mouse a cookie" kind of girl (aside: wait, do you have a cookie right now? can I have it?), so now we are planning new wall paint, new barstool tops, moulding, a decor switcheroo and a tile backsplash to complete the ugly ducking metamorphosis.

the paint color and decor were fine before when this was a land of cherry and cream, but just like tom brady traded up to giselle when he became an NFL star, these counters and cabs deserve something of a va-jay-jay upgrade of their own now that they are classy fellas (thank you liz lemon for that).

please make a big deal out of this transformation. if it's not that great, go ahead and lie to me. i am in a fragile zone of post-stress storm tenderness and can only bear to hear good things about this epic effort.


i love it when you call me big mommy

did you wonder why i chose to call my beach bag the "big mommy bag?" i mean, uh-doy, it's a huge bag that is perfect for moms who have to carry tons of stuff for their families, but outside of being descriptive, couldn't i have picked a more, um, flattering, name?

allow me to tell you the tale of the genesis of big mommy.

ever since judah was old enough to be chased, he has LOVED it. and because i was pregnant during the emergence of this love, jesse became the main chaser.

jesse has a standard "daddy playtime" voice. it is the exact same one that his dad used on him and continues to use on his grandkids. it's kind of a half-shout/growl. it's adorable and weird all at once. funny dukes men.

so when jesse would come after judah he would say, "i'm coming to get you," in this weird monster voice.

somehow, somewhere along the way as judah was learning to speak english, he translated this into toddler speak and whenever a chase ensued, he would say, "big daddy comin'!" it was hilarious and awesome because jesse is big daddy. he is the big giant strong hero of judah's life AND his weird voice makes him even more giant-seeming. judah said it with the perfect inflection that said: watch out, here he comes and he might just gobble you up.

we all fully embraced "big daddy comin'!" and said it often.

then one night when judah was maybe 2.75 years old he was in the tub. i went to get in with him, as i often do with one or both of the kids.

as i tossed my clothes into the laundry basket and thought for the millionth time, "i am so glad that my kids have no perception of body image whatsoever and are not at the age where they ask awkward questions about parts or shapes or sizes of me and jesse when they see us al fresco like this. it's such a relief to not feel self-conscious around them.

and then as i stepped into the tub, judah said it. with that exact same, watch out everybody, there-she-blows kind of inflection: "big mommy comin'!"

it was so terrible and wonderful all at once. it had NONE of the charm of the big daddy version and so many hilarious and soul-crushing implications in its "mommy" form. he continues to say this for me, but ONLY seems to use it when i am getting into the tub or shower. awesome.

but, as i often do, i decided to really lean into it and embrace it. referring to myself as "big mommy" is now a wonderful comic method of being a creepy full-figured lady. throwing down a good, "big mommy likes!" on an unsuspecting friend is gold.

and in that same tradition i went ahead and owned the big mommy title and emblazoned it as the name of my newest craft.

step lightly folks, biiiiiig mommy comin'!


a side of pin

here are a bunch of pins from my "a side of yum" board that i have tried lately and how they've turned out:

1. super easy crusty bread from scratch. i am a horrible baker. i suck at making anything that you would find in a bakery. i think the flour can sense my innate attention distraction to detail and instinctively rebels under my hands.

this tale is filed under "tragedies" because carbs are my love language. the whiter and nutritionally emptier the better.

so when my mom scored an awesome deal for me on a le creuset mack daddy dutch over at an outlet in arizona (and made my dad use it as his carryon on the way back, bless him), i was ready to try this pin, though massively skeptical that this was anything other than delusions of grandeur that would end with tears and a smoke alarm attack--as per usual.

the good news was that i had all the ingredients on hand and it was super easy to mix. then i let it sit and rise (contradiction?) for the recommended 18 hours.

after i baked this creation i pulled out....a piping hot wheat discus. WTF? except not, because this is normal.

i allowed myself a little, "STUPID EFFING PINTEREST WHY DO YOU FILL MY HEAD WITH LIES!!!!," and then i realized that i had used 4 year old yeast (because i learned my last baking lesson in 2008) and the helpful little bacteria had gone on to glory in my cupboard and were as such unavailable to be called into active duty like i needed them. so that's more of a disqualification than a FAIL.

i sprung $1.75 on a fresh pack the next time i was at the store and gave it ONE LAST CHANCE:

SUCCESS! will be making this on the regular with all the fun flavors she suggests (lemon gruyere! orange cranberry!)

2. mediterranean veggie stacks: these were not the quickest to put together and i felt like the bangin' presentation was wasted on just a weeknight meal for me and jesse, but they were really delicious (and i hate most forms of tomatoes). these would be perfect to jazz up a pasta dinner with friends.

save yourself some heartache and get full-fat feta. its worth it.

on the side of an open faced bacon, egg, avocado and arugula sammie with basil mayo....EPIC

3. broiled parmesan chipotle lime avocados: we had these on the side of a bodacious fathers day meal. i used asiago cheese instead of parm and added too much lime juice in the indention so my cheese there was less melty goodness all over and tended towards "floating curd" in the middle. but i will SO be making these again b/c they really were so so easy and delicious on the perimeter where i didnt over-juice.

4. soynapple marinade: not technically a side since this is a marinade for, but marinades go on the SIDES of meat and this one is off the charts good. let it marinate for over 24 hours and you are in for a treat (i think i accidentally left mine in for over 48 and it was insane-pants flavorful and tender). we used flap steak which sounds like the most disgusting thing ever but it was actually cheaper and tastier than its expensive, yet more appetizingly named cousins flank and skirt steak.

this meal was all the got me through one night last week when i was alone with the kids for 6 days straight while jesse was out of town. i have emotional feelings toward it now. also: lemon la croix is your next obsession. also, my veggies were on a separate plate that is not pictured and is also fictional.

yall found any morsels of goodness that deserve to ride shotgun at my next meal?


just another day

apparently judah doesnt observe fathers day for religious reasons.

the religion of a newly-turned-3-year-old is evidently called MEEEEEEEEEE

for those of us who DO recognize and celebrate today: happiest of days to the daddy of m'babes!

jesse does more parenting than i'd ever have any right or sense to ask of him--and then best part is that i never have to ask!

the kids might not know it fully yet, but i know how blessed they are to have him as their papa.

and of course we love and appreciate our own dads, grandaddy and pop pop, a little extra today too. these 60 year old men turn into 20 year olds and are so amazing when around their grandkids. they do such hilarious, ridiculous, selfless, and wise things in their roles as grandpas that you just know this isnt their first rodeo.

as the recipients of their first rodeos, jesse and i are so thankful for all they have given and keep giving us in their roles as fathers and grandfathers. i wonder how many grocery store floor my dad peeled me off of.


The Big Mommy Giant Beach Bag: Free Tutorial

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Want to see me lose my mind? Give me more than 2 things with straps to carry at one time.

This always seems to happen at the beach. As I wrangle SPF-greased kids, one of these strapped vessels will inevitably fall off of my shoulder and land in my elbow pit. This unforeseen engagement of my meager biceps muscle is what gets the BP on the rise. While still holding this isometric curl, I swoop down to stop Layla from eating what appears to be a sand-coated raccoon turd, and my cross-body cooler bag will ride up and start simultaneously strangling me and giving me an Indian sunburn that strongly resembles a hickey right on my bright white neck.

Shortly hereafter I will reach my breaking point, throw everything off of me like a dog trying to escape from under a blanket you've hilariously thrown on top of him, sit down on the boardwalk and pout.

Welcome to summertime!

In an effort to NOT end up salting beachfronts and pool sides everywhere with my bitter, bitter tears, I decided to make myself a custom beach tote.

The standard one we have counted on for the past 6 summers was metallic silver with rhinestones spelling out SUPERMODEL and featuring Heidi Klum’s face on it:

Wait; please let me explain before you judge.

I got it free with a Victoria’s Secret purchase at some point in my distant and cellulite-free past where shopping there for more than "one gray cotton bra that I never have to wash, please" was a reality.

But we all know Heidi is a petite lady. She just can’t hold a lot. She was great for those carefree DINK days of summer, but, as time went on, she was maxing out at just our towels and sunscreen, and as we added family members, ("OKAY! where did all these offspring come from and how do we stop the flow?!?!), we needed to add extra bags: the cooler bag for snacks and drinks, a diaper bag, a bag for a dry change of clothes, a toy bag, floats, and a wet bag.

Surprisingly, the mounting bag-count and ensuing coat-rack-ed-ness that this trend made me resemble wasn’t enough to clue me in that maybe we needed a better option. No, no, I just piled more things on myself in addition to Heidi and took my stress meltdowns in stride, using them to catch a few extra rays during my sandy pout-sessions until I was ready to rejoin the group and be liberated from my nylon prison of straps for a few hours.

No, what finally did send Heidi into full blown retirement was when I randomly used her as my work bag one week last fall and forgot to eat the plum that I had packed for a snack. There it stayed until I pulled out Heidi this spring and found that she had spent the winter as a distillery: fermenting my forgotten plum into what smelled like purple moonshine. Needless to say, she was plastered and needed to dry out. But even after that, she was forever stained and smelly (and just possibly age-inappropriate) so she got tossed in the "free" pile at our yard sale.

Now bereft of a bag, it dawned on me that I can in fact sew and maybe I could make a bag that I really liked: in size and in rhinestone-free-ness. I scoured Pinterest and got my inspiration from this bag, and then Frankenstein-ed it into my own pattern by adding a lining, changing the dimensions, and adding 7 new pockets!!!

And so was born the Big  Mommy Bag:
this bag is my lover.

6 pockets (2 inside/4 outside), chic cabana-stripe in indigo blue, durable canvas straps, exterior fabric that is stain and water-resistant and fade proof up to 500 hours in direct sunlight. fully lined interior.

and the capacity? ohhhhhhh the capacity!!!!

so what do you say? you want a tutorial for this bad boy? i got a little ahead of myself and ordered the fabric in 6 25 different colors because i am selling these here in my etsy shop anyway, but if youre into sewing, this would also be a great project even for beginners.


this is a seriously easy and straightforward project. dont be intimidated by the size of the post. i added tons of pictures because i am overprotective of yall that way and want to pamper your with lots of visuals. even the most beginner sewist could handle this project!


-1.5 yds indoor/outdoor fabric for bag exterior. Premier Prints from Fabric.com is hands down my favorite and they have the BEST patterns and prints The basic stripe is my fave).
-1.5 yds cotton lining fabric (I use a neutral solid that matches my straps, but go wild!
-2 yds heavy cotton webbing 1.25-1.5 inches wide. This is perfect.

let me warn you: this bag is large and in charge. it totally works for beach and pool, but would look a bit out of place just walking around town. if you want to make a smaller version, go forth with my blessing; the tutorial is exactly the same. you will just need to change the dimensions of your cut pieces. if you like the proportions of my bag, just scale down each of the dimensions by the same ratio (say, 2/3rds of my recommended size) or make up your own! this tutorial will work as long as your matching edges all have partners of the same length.


lay out your fabric. maybe roll around on it because it's so pretty and summery chic:

fold the length of the fabric in half, with right sides together:

* note the asterisk in the picture. this is to show you how my stripes are aligned perfectly among the 2 layers of fabric. this will keep everything nice and square if you are working with stripes.

time to cut your main (exterior/pretty) fabric.

i like to measure out my pieces with my ruler and use a fabric pen to draw my cut lines.

below is the most efficient way i have found to utilize the 1.5 yds. i'm no expert so there may be a better way, but if youre using stripes make sure your side pieces go in an opposite direction from the front, back and bottom pieces (pocket direction doesnt matter because they are square):

ONLY cut where the lines are dotted. do NOT cut along the top edge. you are utilizing the fold and dont want to dissect it. since you are cutting through 2 layers of fabric (except on the bottom piece as noted) these cuts will get you all the pieces you need.

now for your lining fabric you will need the following pieces. since direction doesnt matter at all for the inside, you decide the best cutting layout:

2 front/back pieces @ 24x20
2 side pieces @ 20x10 (what you cut will be 20x5 since youre on the fold but the piece, unfolded will be 10")
1 bottom piece @ 24x10
1 pocket-making piece @ 24x6

outside pockets:

grab your four 10" square pieces of exterior fabric. heat up the iron and fill that trusty spray bottle (note: mine is NOT trusty. it hates me, spits water exactly where i DONT point it and requires 4 pumps to get any water out at all).

spray along the top edge of two of the squares. for a striped fabric, you will want to turn these 2 pieces so the stripes run horizontally. this gives the pocket a nice pop of visual interest against the front & back pieces. if you are using a chevron or busier pattern it might be "too much." something to consider. (look at the 4 bags in the picture at the top...the stripes i turned the pattern direction, but the chevrons i didnt).

fold down about a half inch and press (this thick outdoors material can be hard to get a nice sharp crease out of. dont worry. we will prevail over the fabric soon). set aside

now, on the remaining 2 squares, orient your pattern up and down so its going the same way as your front/back pieces.


fold under a half inch and press. (see how my cuts were insane and uneven in the previous picture? i fixed this hereby folding the edge under and matching up the stripes perfectly to get a square edge.)

now take all 4 of these pieces with the pressed top edges and top stitch about 1/4" away from the fold to cement the finished edge into place (haha! take that unruly fabric!):

set aside 2 of the pocket pieces. if you made them with two different pattern directions like i did, then set aside the ones the run the SAME direction as the front pieces of your bag.

back to the ironing board. dammit.

fold the remaining 3 raw edges under 1/2":

uppity fabric resisting the press again. its okay as long as youve put a good visible crease in there.

now i will show you 2 ways to do the pocket corners:

METHOD ONE (fold then cut): spray the ever living mess out of one corner because we want this fold to count:

fold one of your bottom corners up at a 45 degree angle. you want this diagonal edge to be about 2 inches:


now you have this:

to get the edges perfectly symmetrical, fold the other side over so the sides match up:

and the fold back the remaining corner so that the angle matches up:
spuh-ray and press

in the words of the esteemed rufio: bangorang.

trim the folded under corner of down to about 1/2 so that you arent reaching in your pocket and feeling something tickle you and thinking its a roach wing:
i about died trying to look normal holding scissors in place with my left hand for 5 seconds. my right brain almost melted.

so this is what you have:
and that little piece of junk thinks it can boss us around by not laying flat. we'll see about that.

METHOD TWO (cut then fold) for pockets:

using the handy dandy lines that come on your cutting board:

line up your two squares so that the bottom right edges hang over 2 inches below and to the right of the 45 degree line (you can do these 2 at a time):

using your ruler right along the line and a rotary cutter, cut those corners with the precision of an experienced rabbi:
then you will spray and press all around the raw edges, folding under 1/2 inch. even if you use this method, the fabric shant obey. dont take it to heart. our day is coming.

now we take our revenge:

position your pocket in a friendly location on your front and back pieces (lay them so that the longest edge is horizontal and the shorter on is vertical. it should be wider that it is tall). a nice and centered pocket feels good to my heart:

pin down around the edges to affix those pressed creases into place. enjoy shoving the sharp objects through the disobedient folds:

take the pinned pieces to you machine and sew around the 5 pinned sides. back stitch a few times at the beginning and end to tack your pocket down well at a place that will receive the most stress:

then stitch all the way down in a digital U shape (dont sew your pocket closed!)

and if your NOT like me, you amight be OCD and like snipping your threads before moving forward. do that now, weirdos. i like to wait until the end and then get allll the loose threads:
this photo is staged. done believe i actually did it

hooray! a FUNctional pocket is complete. let's whisper into it how many fun things will go inside of its shady climes: fruit snacks, ipads, sunscreen, books, dirty diapers!!
hahahaha type-A people, more loose thread whiskers!

repeat for the other pocket and front/back piece

now grab those other two pocket pieces that we laid aside, and get your 2 side pieces (10x20) too. you are going to align the bottom raw edges with right sides facing up:
again, my cuts are a bit ragged, but i just make sure my stripes are parallel or perpendicular where needed, and all is right.

pin in place:
repeat for both pockets and side pieces

now the stage is set to construct the bag:


take one side piece (with pinned pocket) and one front/back piece and line them up along one raw edge, right sides facing. pin in place making sure your pockets open to the same UP direction:
sew or serge along the dotted line, at about a 1/2 inch seam allowance (remove the pins before serging. yikes!)

repeat for the other pair of side/front pieces (line it up the EXACT same way as you did before).

so now you have 2 of these:

making sure your pockets are all pointed in the same direction (seriously, i have done this wrong and felt a FOOL!) put one of these side/front pieces atop the other, right sides facing, matching up raw edges.

pin in place:
i need to shave my arms. this is what the inside will look like when pinned.

sew or serge these last 2 edges.

turn inside out and get really fluttery about what you've made so far:

now we attach the bottom. its tricky to explain, but really pretty easy to do:

lay your bottom piece (24x10) in front of you:
yes, i was in my bathrobe

put the main body section on your lap, right side up with the pocket opening toward you:

flip the bottom piece down onto your lap, on top of the main section, aligning the bottom raw edges of the bottom piece and one of the bottoms of your front/back piece and making sure right sides are facing:

match up the corners of both pieces:

even given the fact that you main piece has been sewn and has a seam, when you pull it taut, the lengths should match perfectly since the are the same (24"):

pin in place:

start in the middle of the long side you just pinned. sew with a 1/2" seam allowance:

stop when you are about 1/4" from the end, and then backstitch to 1/2" away from the edge:

.make sure you need is down here:

lift your pressor foot and rotate just the top piece of fabric (which is the bag bottom) so that the short edge that WAS perpendicular to the edge you just sewed is now lined up with it:

rotating to meet:

this may create some bunchiness, but that's okay, just shove it as neatly as possible under the pressor foot as you start back up, now sewing the short side of the bottom of your bag:

i made a video of this process that may end up making you more confused or giving you seasickness because i video'd with one hand while sewing with just my left hand. this is tricky enough two-handed and i may have even made it look harder than it is, but it might help you realize that there is some turning and a bit of shoving that can go into this part (it is a 3-way seam, after all) and still be okay:

repeat this method for all 4 corners.

if you have a serger, i find it's easier to just run 4 straight lines of stitching aronud the perimiter , crossing over the previous line to ensure full closure, rather than pivoting on a sewing machine.

either way, flip your bag inside out and check on your sexy corners.


and oh, baby, this is now officially a bag. though we arent finished, it does technically satisfy the definition of "a bag."

ok now we are going to do pretty much the exact same thing for the lining with just a few tweaks.

take your 24x6 piece of lining fabric and lay it on your ironing board. we are going to make four 5" square pockets the fastest way i know how.

*note, if you want to add more pockets, less pockets, smaller pockets, bigger pockets GO FOR IT. make your dream bag. just follw the same procedure outlined below to get the size you want. (finished size will be about an inch smaller vertically and horizontally than the rectangle you cut to begin with)

spray it like it's a girl with daddy issues on spring break. (dont worry, she'll find jesus in her senior year and go on to marry a great guy).

fold down the top and bottom long edges and press. about 1/2 inch:
thats funny, i dont remember drinking before i ironed. dont fear. your creases will be more sober.

now topstitch along 1/4" from the fold of JUST ONE of these creases. all the way along the side:

on your cutting mat, cut the long strip into four 6-inch wide sections:
back at the ironing board, take each of your 4 rectangles and spray and press under the 2 remaining raw edge sides.

you will now have four 5" squares with all their edges folded under and the top edge stitched down:

grab your two front/back lining pieces and position and pin your pockets where you'd like them (again, freestyle this mofo and put them wherever you want. you can put them on the interior sides if you'd prefer, do just one big centered pocket...whatever gets your motor running):

now sew the pockets on in the same U route you did before, backstitching at the beginning and end of each pocket:

repeat for all of your pockets.

now you are going to construct the lining JUST like you did the exterior: sides to main pieces and then sew those 2 pairs together and then the bottom nonsense. (see above where all the crazy (*&#@%) characters are for a refresher)

a lining sack:

this is getting spine-tinglingly awesome, no?

time to add the straps!

cut 2 one yard pieces of heavy cotton webbing:
Oh, hi. this is what 50 yards looks like. yours will likely be smaller.

Take each of your yard-long sections of webbing and pin them with raw edges lined up to the top of the bag like so:
i've found that running the straps along the side of the main pocket leaves them at a really good width for carrying and it centers them as well. make sure youre straps arent twisted when you pin them in place.

repeat for the other side of the bag too.

now leave your exterior right side out, and flip your lining inside out. take the exterior and slide it inside the interior (aka, pockets will be facing):

shimmy it down in there all the way:
this is kind of sad because your pretty exterior fabric is getting eaten by the less exciting lining. dont worry. beautiful regurgitation is impending and the exterior will come out just as sparkly and debonair as lando calrissian did after his emergence from the great sarlacc of tatooine.

twist and rearrange things so that all the seams line up exterior to interior and pin each of the main seams in place:
i also pin in the middle of the long side so that it's not flapping in the wind. i also add another pin through the exterior/interior/straps to keep them well in place.

starting on one of the side pieces, backstitch and then sew all the way around the top raw edges of the bag:

stop sewing and backstitch when you cross over the 4th side seam, leaving about a hand's width gap turning. you want to make sure you have sewn over all 4 straps:
*in this pic my gap is between the straps, but the gap works better on the side as described

now the magic. reach inside the opening (all your pins better have been removed!!) and grab the bottom of the bag and pull it all out through the opening:

this is the best part of sewing for me. i cant help but feel like i have just successfully executed a transfiguration spell when this beauty springs forth from that little opening:

this is what we have now. our bag and attached lining with our hands-width gap still open. 

stuff the linig into the exterior:
at this point there is probably urine everywhere because you have peed your pants with excitement over how awesome this project is turning out. or is that just me and my weak pelvic floor?

use your fingers to fold under the unfinished edges in the gap area so that it looks just like the rest of the sewn perimeter. starting there, topstitch around the entire top of the bag about 1/8" from the top seam. this will not only close the turning gap but also reinforce your straps and give the bag a crisp finished look:

and just like that...BIG MOMMY BAG RISES!!!!

run promptly to your nearest body of water. feel free to carry everything you own because you now have room for it. make one for everyone mom you know within 1 miles. you are mommy. you are hero:

leave me any questions you may have in the comments section and i will try my best to answer them all.

again, if you're a lover not a fighter or a buyer not a sewer...you can just buy one of these bags from me in one of 30 fabrics HERE.

onward babes of summer!
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